Written & contributed by Gail Parris
We all need help to stop and rest. In today’s busy, and increasingly competitive world, we are always trying to get things done. Even when we are resting it is common in Western culture to label rest as unproductive. Taking time to stop and rest is a powerful resource for change, not a luxury or laziness. It promotes health in body and mind. Chances are you are doing too much and using your down time to figure out what else you need to do. How about being kinder to your body with restorative yoga?
Through the process of restorative yoga the body is able to renew itself and regenerate a sense of well being for both body and mind. “Restorative yoga helps to engage the parasympathetic nervous system allowing for improved digestion and the reduction of muscle tension, chronic stress, fatigue, blood pressure, serum triglycerides, and blood sugar levels.” (quoted text from Restorative Yoga Poses Web site)
Though it can seem intimidating if you’ve never done it before–restorative yoga uses a ton of props–it is easy and accessible to everyone, no matter what your age and or body type. The most important skill is sensing what feels good to your body, not focusing how well you can stretch. In fact, if you feel like you’re stretching in a restorative yoga pose then you are not doing it correctly says, yoga teacher Rodney Lee.
I was skeptical when I heard this during Yoga Therapy training. In the yoga world, I am what you call flexy-bendy so the thought of not stretching made me feel unproductive. I wondered if I was getting anything out of it. I soon discovered the resourcefulness of replenishing and conserving my energy with restorative yoga.
The first pose I learned I did for months in bed. How’s that for accessible?
In supta badda konasana (reclined cobbler’s pose), I observed the rise and fall of my abdomen with each inhalation and exhalation. It provided a space for me to help my body digest my dinner and quiet my mind for optimal rest.
If you’d like to try it, Yoga Journal has step-by-step instructions for getting into the pose.
Below are 3 important tools for restorative yoga practice:
3 Tools for Practice
1. An eye pillow. You can purchase one or create one. I have used a store bought option from gaimyoga.com and I made one by filling a sock with rice.
2. Extra blankets, pillows or towels can be used to prop up knees. You can order these online. I like amazon.com, but I recently discovered great props in a neighborhood organic supermarket.
3. A yoga strap. This is placed around the feet and lower back to support the structure of the pose. (This is one of my favorite props. I wear it at home when doing housework and sometimes at my desk as I work on time sensitive tasks. It helps me remind myself to relax my shoulders so I can reduce tension and stress in my body as I approach to my work.)
For more suggestions on restorative yoga, take a look at these sites: